This page is an attempt to facilitiate discussions about Voting and Voting Systems.
Current discussions related to Voting Systems:
I don't understand why you have equivocated elections and voting. They are separate concepts, and may each be done without the other. Are you after an electoral system or a voting system? Finally, there is a lot here about contracts and authorization, that isn't always necessarily the case. If a group we "volunteer" (i.e. elect) Sam to get the beer, he's under no contract to get good beer. Also, we didn't have to vote Sam into that position, even informally. We could just confer and appoint. -- SunirShah
I'm absolutely delighted that you decided to comment. I've been hoping we might eventually catch enough of your attention to gain the benefit of your perspectives.
With respect to your post...
I submit that conferring to appoint Sam to get the beer, should be viewed as effectively being a trivial example of a Vote, on the basis that:
Moving on to some of the possible views of the relationships between Voting and Elections, I believe it is acceptable to see Voting as simply one decision-making methodology. (There are a great many others, but Helmut expressed an interest in "Voting Systems" as opposed to the other alternatives, and I agreed to participate assuming that its quite enough (if not more than enough) to start with.) In any event, I do not view Voting and Elections as separate concepts, so much as I see Voting to be a process generally used in a democracy, to select (elect) a Representative and/or Leader. (Just now, I can't think of an Election process that does not use Voting, so if someone can provide even a hint, I'd be appreciative.)
Finally, your point that Sam is under no contract to get the beer, is exactly correct in my view. This becomes, of course, the reason that a Constitution or a Charter for any non-trivial group that may not always be able to achieve consensus, is essential. Then, such a Contract can be defined and can be made enforceable, assuming it has been freely entered into by a competent party, in a jurisdiction with proper laws that can be enforced. Please note that I am not assuming that 'can be' inevitably means 'will be' in spite of the fact that I do lament the increasingly litigious nature of Western societies.
Democracies don't require elections. A small hunter/gatherer tribe is democratic without the need for elections. Elections don't require voting. For instance, a nominee could be brought forth and tested viva voce against the crowd to see if there is any dissent. That dissent can then be examined rationally to see if it is meritous. If the argument falls, the dissent is withdrawn. The appointment of U.S. cabinent roles and Supreme Court justices follows this method, more or less.
You should not be so hasty to move from one scope to another. My precise point is that the scope of the problem determines the complexity of the solution. Getting beer does not require an electoral authority, but that doesn't make it any less of a group decision problem. And as any student of democratic systems knows, voting systems vary considerably from one state to the next. The test isn't whether or not the citizenry votes, but how empowered they are.
Voting is only a method where power is represented in a countable--and therefore analyzable and rationalizable--fashion. An honest voting system will map each votes representational power as closely to the underlying power represented as possible. The simplest example are shareholder votes when all shareholders own Class A shares. Then you vote by the level of ownership you have over a company. Since the financial system is just another representation standing in for real world problems, shareholder votes can be constructed to be this simple. Political voting systems don't have the benefit of being so direct since they deal with real world problems. In an Athenian democracy, the presumption is that the majority of male, free householders could band together to harm or kill the minority, so in place they have a voting system to make these decisions more efficient (i.e. without the sword).
Voting systems don't have to be this simple. Most voting systems try to skew the power of each vote in one direction or another for various reasons. For one, the value of brute force in modern times is not very high. Having a huge number of citizens band together does not really matter compared to the real power in a given state. So, some capitalist countries like Italy and the United States prefer more plutocratic systems that allow billionaires to have more political power. However, for countries with vast underpopulated interiors between major population centres such as the United States and Canada, the electoral systems skew representational power to equalize power over the geographic area as well (through their respective Senates).
The tension in complex political systems is to constantly change the voting system to favour one side or the other. Gerrymandering, campaign financing, candidacy requirements, etc. all seek to change the relative power of some votes compared to another in order to better guarantee some predetermined outcome.
Solving the problem with an "honest" vote, a concept that is meaningless in practice, does not still get to the heart of the problem. The problem is making good decisions. Voting itself presupposes the debate has ended and people are no longer listening. It is fundamentally an act of conflict to vote. So, I've claimed that VotingIsEvil. I used to prefer to move things forward by building knowledge and making the right decisions, but that dream itself hinges on there being a maximal tension of power intrinsic in the structure of the voting society, which is libertarianism, and it hinges on the CommunityExile of people who don't play by those rules. The question I'm lost between is simply what is more evil, really? -- SunirShah
Within our decision systems there seem to be problems. We try to make good decisions, but we rarely care to check them afterwards or undo them if we find them wrong. To vote against a decision might pay in an ideal decision system if the decision proves wrong afterwards and the vote right. Linus Torvalds writes in his "linux kernel management style" a rule like "don't make decisions that can't be undone". In our political systems there is no culture to look at decisions from a "learn from trial and error" way. Decisions are hyped to be right. To strive for good decisions only makes sense if you care to know the difference and one is able to admit when one was wrong. -- HelmutLeitner
Sunir: I have "equivocated elections and voting" since I am not aware of any significant Democracy that does not base its Elections on Voting, at least at some level. I certainly agree with you that an Electoral system and a Voting system are very different things, that the casual participant fails to adequately distinguish. This is particularly evident in the United States where a very small percentage of the population has any understanding whatsoever of the role of their Electoral College. To answer your specific question about what we are after, I would say we are striving to design a Voting system, not an Electoral system.
As for there being a lot about Contracts and Authorization, I think we would be negligent if we did not recognize that there will have to be provisions for various ways of resolving the differences of opinion that are inevitable in real world decision making. When two or more divergent options exist, a common way they are resolved in the modern, civilized world, is by rule of Law as opposed to the use of force. Laws, as you know, are interpreted by Courts and the Judges that preside there render their judgements based on the presented evidence. In both the specialized practices of Constitutional law and Corporate law, the greatest weight is given to the documented Contracts that define the obligations of the respective Parties. I am certain that any Voting System we design, like virtually all others, will have to withstand the inevitable challenges that will arise, especially including Proof of Eligibility, Authority, and the system's fairness and integrity. In short, I know Contracts are an inescapable part of making a decision that affects more than a very small number of peple working in unanimous harmony. This is particularly true (as I said elsewhere) when the decisions affect the ownership and control of assets (i.e. money).
If anyone is aware of any Democracies that do not use Voting, references would be greatly appreciated.